Becoming a mom came as quite a shock to me.
Yes I understood the science behind it, and was fully present for the joys and woes that are pregnancy and childbirth, but as a general schema the impact of parenthood was both abrupt and lasting.
Opting to return to work less than six weeks after giving birth…well that was near traumatic. The wounds were barely healed, and there I was, buckling my seatbelt, chugging my tear-filled coffee.
It was about this time when I discovered blogging as therapy: both in reading others and composing some of my own; a living journal of sorts.
Early on I knew I would need something to make sense of what I was going through.
Away from my newborn more than 10 hours/day while at work; up most of the night while he learned how to sleep; lacking exercise and general health because of these factors; and feeling hopelessly inadequate in all areas of life (and having these feelings validated at the worst times).
I wish I could remember or find the original source to share, but in my web-browsing I found an article with a theme that stuck with me: one chair at a time.
You’re either at your desk (or whatever work you do), at home with your kids, or fulfilling another obligation.
You can’t do anything all that well if your mind is still stuck in a different chair than the one with the tasks at need right in front of you. It’s a literal detachment from everything else so you can focus. Maybe it sounds harsh but it’s reality.
It reached me at exactly the right time, because my next chair was going to be have to be a therapist’s couch.
It was liberating in a way. I was hyper productive during my work hours, feeling like I did the work of two people but that’s another story, and felt no guilt unplugging at 5 p.m. for family focus time during off hours and weekends.
What I've learned
Fast-forward five years, so what have I learned?
1. Maternal Instincts: If you’re like me, parenthood can take you by surprise. If you will continue to work after having children, by choice or circumstance, be diligent in finding an employer that offers the right maternity leave plan for your life (paid or non-paid). Trust your gut with major decisions like this because it's the only thing without its own agenda!
2. Multipliers: I also learned an obvious yet genius technique when purposeful thought is put in – multipliers. I write this as my kids play outside, so I can supervise but they don’t really want or need me bugging them. I do the same with exercise, cooking, shopping, meal making etc. I say often, 'this is family time,' whether we are working together, cleaning the house or watching a movie. Chores aren’t as horrible when you feel like you’re spending time together (good for marriages too..yet another post).
3. Move: Don’t sit too long in one place: make exercise a priority. No, not so you can land a spot on the hot mom bod calendar. Your brain needs exercise as much as the rest of your body.
I’ve broken the chair rules a bit, and with good reason. If something distracts me from work (two kids and a life will do that; it’s ok to do work at home and on weekends), I've realized that it doesn't have to take you down with it.
What might, is feeling such resentment either way because there is no blend. I can feel this when I’m leaning too in, versus paying too less attention to my career development. Don't think in and out, think back and forth!
When in doubt, find an easy chair or outdoor recliner, and take 20 minutes to lean back, breathe deep, and appreciate all that you're working for and accomplish each day.
• Work as if your paycheck depends on it. (yes, that it does, don’t forget it)
• Blog like no one is reading. (After looking at old posts I’ve written, I’m thinking this is a good thing)
• Sneak away for a nap when no one is looking (okay, maybe you should tell someone so they don’t report you missing)
Pain into purpose. There is power and healing in sharing one's struggles, and no better channel for us than through parenting blogs.
While I'm never surprised when a mom or dad pours their heart out online about life with a reflux baby or child, I am always inspired by their courage. Why? Because the ugliness of the situation comes with strong doses of guilt and reality.
We are all too conscious of the fact that we must be grateful to have a baby in our arms, when so many do not. We can't complain about sleeplessness or laundry, when there are far too many families dealing with serious issues, including the most severe cases of infant reflux.
Then there's the feeling of helplessness and being out of control. We can't find the relief or remedy to help our child who is helpless themselves, and literally sit and suffer in our own way while time passes.
If you've landed here at a point of desperation, please check out the accounts below, for even a bit of a break from the anguish. Save the guilt for another day and realize you aren't alone.
Tears, Pain and Suffering - A Newborn with Reflux
How my baby's reflux affected my whole family
Dealing with Colic and Reflux in babies
When your baby has reflux
Reflux mums will know
DownWithSpitUp on Fox8News, Cleveland Ohio
My journey may have ended, but at any given moment, the story is just starting for a new family. Learn more about DownWithSpitUp.com.
I often wonder what parenting was like in the olden days. Such as anytime in history, say, before 60-75 years ago or so.
Moms had to rely on their actual village for learning and advice; not the ones they could find online.
They may or may not have had access to a doctor-like figure, making first opinions the norm (whether from their own mother, relatives and the like). Frankly, it's hard to imagine.
That's why being overly informed today, can be overly annoying and overwhelming. We challenge everything: from the advice of actual medical professionals who've put the time, student loans, and actual practice behind their suggestions and prescriptions, to our gut feelings, and observations and recommendations from those we trust most.
That said, when it comes to matters of reflux, colic, sleep issues and general fussiness, there is a breaking point where statements meant to be helpful or mood-lightening are simply gag-worthy.
My favorites are below, and while I'm sure there's more, I couldn't find the energy to regurgitate them all in one post.
"Reflux is the new colic."
Babies spit up. Babies cry. Babies don't sleep. It's just an excuse for parents to find an easy fix to deal with a naturally fussy baby. We're so used to quick solutions for our problems that we demand a diagnosis, even when one is unclear.
While I won't go down this rocky road on this site (18 months of spit up on every surface of the house put me on the other side of this line of thinking), I can see the rationale behind those with this argument. Simple Twitter hashtag searches for things like #infantreflux, #reflux, #babyreflux, and you'll see the volume of angst out there.
The spit up is real for many families, and since many experts debate the existence of colic anyway, let's just put this one to rest.
"Reflux is your laundry problem."
Ok, so maybe we are all caught in the uproar that reflux is over-diagnosed, over-medicated and over-reacted to by caregivers. But this phrase is just a slap in the face and does nothing to help us when we're hanging on the brink of sanity (and extended periods of no sleep). We already have mounds of mounds of regular laundry, so let's try to make jest of the situation with a witty comment? But oh yes, "the dishes can wait" while we must savor each moment of parenthood, so as long as the health department doesn't pay a visit.
"Get a second opinion."
This goes without saying that you shouldn't rely on the advice or opinion of just one resource (especially a website you find in the middle of night like DownWithSpitup.com wink wink).
You can do your own research to build your knowledge base, as long as you are relying on the advising of a medical professional, who has spent years-upon-years studying and practicing the subject matter at hand.
However, not all second opinions help to calm the situation. In her recent post, Tongue Tie, Reflux or just Fussy? Suzanne "MummytoTwins" highlights the confusion and bitterness that comes with conflicting opinions, even professional ones.
"As a mother it is very confusing and annoying to have such conflicting views. What do you do? Do you continue to see someone for a tongue tie that a surgeon says is not there? Or do you just let it be."
With a Grain of Salt
I admit this post wasn't one of my most rewarding to write, but cathartic nonetheless. If you've ever encountered with these and other cringe-worthy blanket statements, just remember: parenting comes with a side of snarkiness, and without a doubt, "this too shall pass" (couldn't resist).
What parenting quips turn your stomach? No better time than the present to get them all out!
Dear, friend, colleague, distant family member, or stranger from the Internet,
Please don't. Thank you.
Ok so if that's not good enough, I will offer my extended response below. You've been warned:
First of all, wow, I am flattered that of all of your contacts you've selected ME to your exclusive group, be it a new fitness challenge, your fat-busting miracle wraps, or life-changing line of beauty products, etc.
Maybe it was that recent family photo where I was looking a little softer in the middle and tired around the eyes, or the snap of me and my kid baking those cookies together with the big globs of frosting. Or possibly it was from that 5K group photo...I mean I did look a bit sweaty at the end...
Maybe I simply appear to be a driven person, and I'd just be a great addition to your team and achieving the important goals you're setting. #NewYearsResolutions and #FitnessGoals anyone!?
And pyramids are definitely my favorite of the schemes out there, because the success just keeps growing, and it's like started by the Egyptians right? So yea, definitely on your wavelength, but I digest.
With all of this, I will have to respectfully decline this offer. Sorry, but this year, of all the years, I'm just feeling pretty damn good. Yea, I still have some baby weight (definitely won't be showing off any-pack of abs at the community pool this summer) but I've had some really good times:
I do finally prefer my lap to be a comfy place to land for anyone who needs it (especially my lap dogs). I like to run and do cardio because it relieves stress, and lifting weights make it easier to tackle just about anything (or anyone if need be). I also want my sons to grow up knowing that women can be strong, and soft, and come in all shapes and forms of beauty.
I know we're at that wonderful time of year where women reflect on the trials and tribulations of the past 12 months, and flog themselves after every bite of indulgent treat or swig of holiday spirits. Been there and done that since I hit puberty and wanted boys to like me, and I've wasted a hell of a lot of time.
Today, I'm still me, and still have bouts of self-doubt and loathing, but more grateful for ever what I have. I know have infinite room to improve, but please, just let me have this time to just be.
I applaud your efforts to use the power of social media to spread the word. I mean people need to be reminded that health is their true wealth. And beauty is their true currency. And fear is the root of all evil. And life is a box of chocolates. I know it, I feel ya, and I'm with ya, if only in spirit here.
Again, thanks so much for thinking of me, but I really do need to focus on MY new program I'm really jazzed about. In fact, I will be shortly sending you an invite to join my new page called "Train Your Best. Tuck the Rest."
It's all about living your life on your terms, taking your mind off being perfect, and investing in some nice shapewear garments for the times when you don't want it to all hang out. It's catching on and I can't wait to show you the before and afters. I'm looking for 12 motivated individuals ready to not change their life all that much, let me know if you're in.
Until then, best of luck with your programs, and try to catch me on the next one!
Comfortably Content in Cleveland (for now)
*Disclaimer - if not evident - this is sarcasm, trying to shed humor on a serious subject.
I really do wish goodwill for those trying new things in the new year to change their lives. Behavior change is virtually impossible without extreme focus and energy, and frankly I'm just distracted and likely sleep-deprived as I write this. Get at it!
Round 2 of winter bugs just can't seem to leave us alone. Be back soon to talking my regular spit!
This post was originally up in Feb of 2014, and re-sharing in 2015 because it fits just right.
If you’ve landed here looking for advice on the best medicines for your baby’s reflux, I’m sorry, you won’t find much here. There are daily posts on this topic on the Baby Center forum Surviving Reflux: Dealing with Colic, Reflux, MSPI and I suggest you check it out.
The reason for the lack of info? Simply, I have no experience. The medication route was never advised by multiple docs, nor pushed by myself. I had a fat and “happy” spitter, which meant a “laundry problem” for me. Oh, and 18 months of no sleep and constant anxiety.
If hindsight is 20/20, then my foresight was 50/50. I felt I had two clear choices:
He smiled, he laughed, he cried, he met milestones. He did what typical babies do, he just spit up each meal and couldn’t get rest (via nap or overnight). Still, I stuck to my guns, and my gut, that both he, and I, could make it through with this choice.
As advised, my son needed to simply mature, eventually become more vertical each day, and he did outgrow it. Yes, he did spit up solids during this time, but the more solid the meal, the less the reflux persisted. Other than horrible sleep habits that were never quite worked out, I feel today that we did take the right path. But I can’t help but wonder if trying a solution would’ve made those 18 months better, more peaceful and more restful. Heck, I tried everything else.
There’s a reason that Medicate or Wait is part of my top 10 considerations for reflux families. Every parent comes into this situation with a position, that becomes influenced by experience and guided by medical professionals.
Of parents I’ve talked to, no one situation has been alike. Some were prescribed medication right off the bat and solved many issues, and others tried many kinds with no luck at all. Some refused the recommended medicine, and others yet, like myself, found alternative tricks and tools to cope.
My advice is to seriously re-examine your gut instincts with each passing phase. It’s to remind you that you are the voice for your child, even when that voice is a scared and shaky one (at whatever direction you take, or when you decide to change directions).
Take a solid stance and press the issue until you can both find a new comfort level. And don’t be so stubborn, or sleep-deprived, to reconsider your options when your situation changes.
If medication is on your mind, your first step is your doc, or a different doc, or yet a different doc. As far as online resources, there are tons of polarizing articles out there on both sides of the coin, and I never recommend trusting strangers on the Internet. If nothing else, you will see how not alone you are.
On Nov. 14, 2015, Christina Schmitz joined Autumn Ziemba and Fox 8 Cleveland in the Morning, to discuss car seat risks and related issues concerning reflux, colic and more. Check out the video below and the resource article Safe to Spit Up: Car Seats and Other Elevating Dangers for Babies.
For families managing infant reflux, colic and other gastric issues, it can feel like a full-time job.
But what if it really was your full-time job, that became your life’s work and passion?
Robynne Elkin, a pediatric occupational therapist who has worked in the neonatal intensive care unit for 20 years, is a feeding specialist for infants who have dysphagia (feeding difficulties) and reflux.
She is also the co-founder of the RES-Q Wedge along with Dr. Craig Troop and his wife Rozlyn Troop, dietician. Robynne’s son Drew, now 15, almost died as an infant and was the reason the RES-Q Wedge was created. Drew has severe GERD and went into liver failure at six months of age before he was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disease. He has had to manage GER his entire life, so she has lived the life as a reflux mom.
RES-Q Wedge has been used by parents throughout the world since its launch in 2003 but their true calling is combining their areas of expertise to help other parents who have infants with reflux and other health issues. Their wedge is also used to help position infants who receive g-tube feedings upright for better gastric emptying.
With safe sleep issues in the spotlight, Robynne was kind enough to share her thoughts and insight on critical topics for today’s parents and caregivers with us at Down With Spitup.
DWSU: What are the biggest risks for parents/caregivers dealing with reflux, ear infections, etc.? Especially concerning safe sleep.
Robynne: We all know that elevation is key when we are dealing with reflux. We have studies that prove elevation helps to keep the acidic stomach contents down so there is less irritation of the esophagus, less chance of aspirating stomach contents, and improved ability to sleep. Who wants to lie down head of bed flat after eating Thanksgiving dinner? Adult GI's even suggest patients sleep with elevation of the head of bed to help alleviate pooling of gastric contents in the esophagus, which in turn makes us more susceptible to esophageal cancer, which is highly prevalent in persons with chronic GERD.
Babies with moderate to severe GERD are at higher risk to develop ear infections and pulmonary issues. They typically dislike sleeping head of bed flat on their backs as recommended by the Back to Sleep initiative created in the early 1990's, and regularly preached by the AAP due to the severity of their reflux and because of pressure in the eardrums and increased congestion when lying flat. Wouldn't you if your last meal was swirling in your throat and constantly causing irritation, you had intense pain in your ears, or you had difficulty breathing due to nasal congestion?
The babies who need elevation for improved sleep are often the exception to the rule, as are infants with laryngomalacia or craniofacial anomalies, meaning that they need elevation in order to breathe better and to sleep more safely. We are seeing pediatricians or pediatric specialists recommend actually elevating the head of the bed and sometimes prone or tummy sleeping for the safety of these babies with conditions that can make them more susceptible to SIDS or aspiration while sleeping. All other babies should adhere to the back to sleep recommendations from healthcare providers.
DWSU: What do you see and experience on a daily basis in your work?
The RES-Q Wedge was invented primarily because of my experience with my son Drew, who often would awaken me choking on reflux at night. It was terrifying for me, even as a pediatric OT.
Robynne: In addition, I work with preemies daily and most of them have reflux. It's painful to watch anyone's infant struggle with reflux pain to the point where eating is not enjoyable, and watching parents struggle with trying to feed a baby who doesn't want to eat is heart breaking. Mostly, these babies cannot sleep well, which is important for brain growth and maturation. If a baby is unable to sleep, nor are the parents. Sleep deprivation is a normal part of being a parent in early infancy.
However, if you cannot soothe your baby or help them sleep without pain, it involves the whole family. Extreme sleep deprivation can be very trying on the entire family.
DWSU: What advice do you have for parents, families, communities that need to educate about these conditions, as well as the sleep risks involved?
Robynne: Pediatricians and pediatric health care professionals warn parents about using commercial positioning devices such as swings, car seats, and bouncers for sleep. Infants should sleep in their cribs or bassinets with no clutter such as stuffed animals, toys, blankets, crib bumpers, etc. An infant's sleeping environment should remain bare, with mobiles or cause-effect toys out of the reach and attached high on the cribs. The AAP recommends placing your infant in a sleep sack that fits loosely at the hips to prevent hip dysplasia.
If you are swaddling your infant in a blanket, the blanket should be below shoulder level with either your baby's arms out or gently swaddled flexed up to the chest in midline, or the middle of your infant's body. Swaddling with arms extended downward is not recommended. Do you sleep with your arms in a straight jacket?
Hands close to face is a nice self-regulatory (or comforting) behavior for all babies. Babies also do not need hand mittens. Use a nail file to make sure your baby cannot scratch his face. Infants like to suck on their hands and touch their faces because it is soothing.
When your infant presents with moderate to severe GER, sinus/ear infections, or pulmonary congestion, ask your pediatrician about use of an FDA registered infant wedge to help alleviate symptoms and allow your baby to rest more comfortably. You can find reputable reflux wedges for infants on the internet. Some are considered medical devices if FDA listed, and me be covered by your insurance with a proper diagnosis.
DWSU: What is the RES-Q Wedge and how does it help preemies, newborns and infants?
Robynne: The RES-Q Wedge is the first reversible and orthopedically designed medical device on the market. We are FDA registered, and make it possible for babies with reflux and sleep disturbances to sleep elevated on their backs or stomachs with proper elevation to 30-45 degrees, which is reflux treatment protocol.
We are also orthopedically designed to enhance proper musculoskeletal alignment and head molding. Our healthcare professionals have designed the tummy side of the wedge with a curvilinear arch, like mom's chest, as that's where most of our irritable babies prefer to be when their reflux is acting up. The back sleeping side of the wedge has an actual "nest" in it to keep babies contained with a design that assists with proper head molding. The biggest plus to our design on both sides of the wedge is that it allows for good trunk and hip extension, which enhances gastric emptying.
Babies who are placed in car seats, bouncy seats, swings, and other infant positioners are typically flexed at the hip, which truly impedes gastric emptying and can actually worsen reflux. In addition, these babies often stay in these positioners and can develop plagiocephaly (head flattening), which can lead to the need of expensive head helmets, which are often not covered by insurance companies any longer. We are also unfortunately reminded too often of infant demises in positioners such as the ones more recently in the news.
Special thanks to Robynne for her time and incredibly valuable information. You can learn more at https://www.resqwedge.com/ and their blog at http://blog.resqwedge.com. My only regret is that I didn’t meet Robynne earlier in my parenting life, but my hope is that this information can get in the hands of families, caregivers and communities that need it most!
Please note this article is not a paid endorsement, just two passionate moms bonding over our calling to help others going through this! For more questions about positioning infants for reflux, you can contact Robynne direct at email@example.com. More to come from Robynne and her team in the future.
In April 2015, an Oklahoma family lost their two-month-old son, Shepherd Dodd, because he suffocated when his in-home child care provider left him napping in a car seat. It's making the national news and social media rounds now because Shepherd's story is getting the attention of state legislators on the serious issue of safe sleep standards.
What is safe?
According to Dr. Erich K. Batra, as quoted in the The Journal of Pediatrics April 2015 article
"Cribs Are for Sleeping, Car Seats Are for Traveling: Danger in Using Sitting and Carrying Devices for Sleeping Infants," “Infants and young children should not be left unsupervised when using a sitting or carrying device due to the risk of suffocation and death.” The keyword here is unsupervised.
This article also sources seven main tips as outlined below:
And what about reflux babies?
Two words: ELEVATION and SLEEP. They do not work together, and even worse, can cause mounting risks.
A very common remedy to help alleviate reflux: elevating and or inclining your babies position after feedings (such as baby wearing) and for sleep and resting (such as using a crib wedge mattress or other solution). Mix in uber-stressed-out, ultra-sleep-deprived parents and/or caregivers, and hazardous situations can present themselves. As seen on various searches online, what works for some parents doesn't follow these guidelines, even if conducted under strict supervision.
In my home state of Ohio, the Department of Health, early in 2015, launched a "safe sleep" campaign to address one facet of high infant mortality rates, ranking fourth in the country (3 each week in the state). In their messaging, the concern of back sleeping and choking was broached, including links to a diagram on the National Institutes of Child Health and Development Safe to Sleep and SIDs prevention page.
In short, in my opinion, the situation of safe sleep is 100x more amplified for parents and caregivers dealing with reflux, silent reflux, colic and other common infant issues. It's a huge challenge creating a safe sleep environment for a baby that spits up in their sleep, or can't seem to sleep at all. It's goes beyond the crib and creating a safe physical, mental and emotional space for the whole family. Many families don't have the means to purchase a wedge or specialized reflux device or solution.
I can only offer two more words: AWARENESS and SUPPORT. That is my plea to everyone out there in these situations for themselves, and the friends, family members and even just acquaintances in your world. Parenting is tough, and scary, and requires vigilance - and in these early months - it can take more than you have to give. I hope we can continue to spread the word and build the support systems needed.
Parents prompt legislative study after baby dies while sleeping in car seat - Fox23.com
Cribs Are for Sleeping, Car Seats Are for Traveling: Danger in Using Sitting and Carrying Devices for Sleeping Infants - jpeds.com
Ohio's Infant Safe Sleep Campaign - Ohio Dept. of Health
Frequently Asked Questions for Safe Sleep - National Institutes of Child Health and Development
Parents Whose Baby Died Warn: Don't Let Babies Sleep in Car Seats: Parenting.com
CarSeatLady.com Cold Weather Tips
Hayden Panettiere made national headlines for speaking out and getting treatment for her postpartum depression, and more than 10 months after giving birth. I'm not sure if I'm more surprised that people are acting so surprised, or that the little girl from Remember The Titans is now a grown up and a mom.
She's proving that "Baby Blues" aren't just something that start from the first sleepless night and end at that first real smile. They can last as long as they darn well please, and even start before baby makes his or her grand appearance. And there is a full range of ways that it can present itself.
The most basic of mothering roles is monumental in itself, whether you're a first-timer and the craziness therein, or a returning champion with two hands to take care of, well, many more hands.
Pile on the common, yet difficult, issues such as colic, reflux (silent too), and general high needs and fussiness, and you tell me all about how GREAT you are feeling overall. Especially after the consecutive weeks, months and years of scarce and low quality sleep.
Add in uncommon diseases, illnesses, special needs and more, and I can't honestly comprehend how some moms stay standing and smiling through it all. These are superheroes in real life.
Now while celebrities and surely other well-off moms can shuffle to treatment or sanctuary, most of us live in the real world where we have to do our healing while still taking care of everyone, and everything, else.
So, how do we cope?
With that, I will share my brief journey in this arena (the notes will be BRIEF, the JOURNEY is ongoing).
The first 6 weeks of my first son were rough due to colicky symptoms, peaking around week 4-5. At 6 weeks I had to go back to work (for another time and another post) and frankly he outgrew the incessant crying around the same time and was sleeping most nights at 3 months. I'm prone to depression and anxiety, and this was a major trigger, but realized I had PPD too late in the game to help me when I needed help most. Good with eating, bad with teething, but overall we had a good year one. Good enough that we were open to more bundles of joy and was pregnant with son number 2 when number 1 was about 15 months.
As number 2 came along, and a new full-time job along with the pregnancy, I felt these symptoms all along. Combined with life stresses and new challenges with my first son, I went home from the hospital with a prescription for PPD. I knew I had it before we brought him home and through the hormone changes, and reflux that started almost immediately, that foresight of myself and my doctor was critical to making it through the next 18 months and counting here. My additional coping mechanisms included a commitment to my health (reasonable attempts at best but something), counseling for stress management, and best of all, the creation of this website! It was through DownWithSpitUp.com that I really found healing in connecting, sharing and helping others - even if they find these posts and resources years from now.
I still don't get sleep, and managing stress will be a lifelong commitment, but I wouldn't trade a second because it's changed me and made me stronger than I knew I was. My moments of weakness are still plenty but they make the moments of beauty that much better.
And hey, if it takes Hayden Panettiere's pretty face splashed all over the news to spread that message, then she's one of my HEROES. ...(anyone?)....yea maybe I should go take a nap.
Check out the video below!
Spit Up Support Blog
Yea, I went there. Nearly half of all babies spit up, regularly. Some more, some less, and for many it's just plain scary.
I'm not a doctor. This website is for informational and entertainment purposes ONLY. Read our full disclaimer here.
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